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Novak Djokovic When He Was Just 21 | Before They Were Superstars

October 10, 2019


(BEFORE THEY WERE SUPERSTARS) My goal is to become the best tennis player
in the world. I’m relatively close
to achieving this goal, but I don’t want to put too
much pressure on myself. (NOVAK DJOKOVIĆ) (AGE: 21. DATE: DECEMBER, 2008) (SPORT: TENNIS) (LOCATION: MONTE CARLO, MONACO) Monte Carlo is known as
a playground for the rich and famous and it’s also
where many of the world’s top tennis players have based
themselves, over the years. In December 2008, Novak had
been living and training here for three years. Its tax-free status
is motivation in itself to live in Monte Carlo, but
Novak had also relocated here because his growing popularity
in his native Serbia was starting to overwhelm him. It’s peaceful here
and I can have my privacy. I don’t get disturbed
or bothered by anyone and I live a more normal life.
That’s important. You would think that
I would wish to spend as much time
as I can in my homeland, but that’s not really
possible at the moment. You never know
where life will take you. At this stage of his career,
a 21-year-old Novak was already one
of the brightest talents in the tennis world.
He was the reigning Australian Open champion
and was being tipped to be a future world number one. As my career progresses,
I hope that there will be many more big tournament
victories for me. I’m only 21 and so have
plenty of time on my side. I have some very
good people around me, helping me to develop.
My team is very professional and they support me,
both on and off the court. I hope that they
will continue to do so. Novak trained at
the Monte Carlo Country Club. He was being coached by
former Slovakian professional Marian Vajda, who’s stayed
with him throughout his career. Novak often practised
with fellow professional Mario Ančić of Croatia. Mario was also based
here in Monaco and the two were good friends. We’ve known each other
since the beginning of our tennis careers.
He came on the scene a few years after me and I’ve been
following his progress. He’s improved so much
and has enormous ability. He’s got his family
right behind him and he’s definitely
focused on his tennis. He has the potential
to achieve whatever he wants to in the sport. The environment where Novak
was living and training was a far cry from
the one in which he spent his formative years.
He grew up in the Serbian capital Belgrade,
during a time of war and economic instability. As a boy, Novak
sheltered with his family from the daily NATO
bombing raids of 1999. Over the last 20 years or so,
my country has been through a lot of difficulties,
both political and economic. There is a lot of frustration
and I’m well aware of all that. When I play, or when
I win a big tournament, I represent myself
first and foremost, but I also represent
my country and the people in Serbia
who support and follow tennis. I would like to give
something back to them and I hope that I’m
bringing them some happiness by what I achieve
on the tennis court. It was in the aftermath
of the bombing raids of 1999 that Novak left Belgrade. He was 12 when he moved
to Germany, to attend a tennis academy
on the outskirts of Munich. After returning home,
following his three years in Germany, Djoković
turned professional, at 16. At this stage of his career,
the young Serb had his sights set on overhauling Roger
Federer and Rafael Nadal, at the top
of the world rankings. I wish to be
realistic in my goal. At the moment,
there are two players in front of me who are better than me. I’ll do all I can to improve
by at least one position in the forthcoming year. But I can’t say for
definite that this will happen. We’ll just have
to wait and see. I have time on my side
and there are lots of elements in my game that are on
a par with the top players. That’s encouraging
for the future. Novak was living in Monte Carlo
with his then-girlfriend Jelena, who would go on
to become his wife. The pair met
in Belgrade in 2003 and they often returned
home to Serbia, whenever Novak’s hectic
schedule allowed them to do so. Novak has just
recently helped establish an ATP Tour event in Belgrade. I’m very pleased that
we have managed to organise an ATP tournament in Belgrade. It will take place in May 2009
and will give the tennis fans in Serbia the opportunity
to see professional tennis up close. They will be able
to see what it’s all about and support the players
from our country. Away from tennis,
Novak’s big passion in life remains football. His father was
a professional footballer and Novak believed that he
could have made the grade, too. I know that my life has been
devoted mainly to tennis and this will be the case
for many years to come, but when I’m not playing
tennis, I try to enjoy whatever it is that I’m doing. Novak’s favourite football
team is Red Star Belgrade, but since he’d been
living in Monte Carlo, he’d adopted AS Monaco
as his second club. I believe that,
with a smile on your face and with a positive
outlook on things, then your life
will be longer and easier. That’s how I’m trying
to go about things, anyway! In life, I think that
everyone has their own individual character
and you have to follow your own path in the world. You have to do
what is right for you. Playing tennis
was my own choice and I think
it was a good one for me. So far, it has provided me
with a healthy lifestyle and some success,
and I hope that continues. Novak would go on to
become a tennis superstar. He succeeded
in loosening Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer’s
grip on the men’s game and achieved his lifelong
ambition of being world number one in 2011. One of the proudest
moments of his career came at the
2012 London Olympics, when he carried the flag
of his beloved Serbia at the opening ceremony.

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